Lynne d Johnson



« January 2003 | Diary | March 2003 »

02.27.03 11:19 PM

hip-hop against war

Hip-hop impresario Russel Simmons spearheaded a movement in which Jay-Z, Nas, and Busta Rhymes joined 42 music acts that signed their names to an antiwar message published as a full-page advertisement in Wednesday's issue of the New York Times, among several other major newspapers. Simmons and rapper Mos Def have recorded two 30-second TV ads attacking Bush's policies. In cyberspace, Chuck D's Fine Arts Militia takes on the Bush agenda in A Twisted Sense of God, a rock/spoken-word diatribe available on

Musicians add their voices to war protest, By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times
Musicians Band Together Against War Threat, Edited by Jonathan Cohen, Billboard DailyMusicNews
Artists Mount a chorus against war, By Edna Gundersen, USA Today

Bonus: Always the conscious writer, Jeff Chang, wrote an article about protest music that has been reprinted all over the Web. I found it at Ripsaw News, Urban Think Tank, AlterNet, CounterPunch, and Metroactive. It is a must read, as all of his pieces are.

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02.25.03 11:58 PM

things that matter

On the subway ride home this evening, I was reading this while simultaneously glancing at the latest print edition of this, and I have to say that Arundhati Roy deeply moves me.

The Nation features an excerpt from her Confronting Empire Speech that she presented at the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil on January 27. What moved me most was this...

"Still. many of us have dark moments of hopelessness and despair. We know that under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terrorism, the men in suits are hard at work. While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, we know that contracts are being signed, patents are being registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are being plundered, water is being privatized, and George Bush is planning to go to war against Iraq." Or maybe it was this...

"Empire may well go to war, but it's out in the open now - too ugly to behold its own reflection. Too ugly even to rally its own people. It won't be long before the majority of American people become our allies. Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter of a million people marched against the war on Iraq. Each month, the protest is gathering momentum. Before September 11th 2001 America had a secret history. Secret especially from its own people. But now America's secrets are history, and its history is public knowledge. It's street talk. Today, we know that every argument that is being used to escalate the war against Iraq is a lie. The most ludicrous of them being the U.S. Government's deep commitment to bring democracy to Iraq." But mainly, I think it was this...

"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed to believe."

Now, I feel ashamed that I did not make it to the protest in NYC. Though police harassed the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets on February 15, I should have been there. Especially as I move throuugh the subway system and in that place I am reminded of the vagaries of Empire. Making my way through the tunnels, I witness militia running up and down the subway stairs, standing on platforms, with rifles hanging from their shoulders. If I am supposed to feel safe, it is a surprise to my system for I feel more frightful than ever before. NYC's finest are there too. On the platforms. En masse. I see and hear them ask citizens for ID. They are on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Like sitting ducks. There to protect and serve. That it takes longer to travel from Brook'nam to Manhattan is an inconvenience, yes. But mostly it's frightening. I do not feel protected. I hear the words of Malcolm X, ricocheting like bullets through my brain computer. You do remember what was going on around this time in 2001, don't you?

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02.24.03 11:24 PM

the big takeover

Aight, I am a little bit late on this but we are definitely making history here. I remember back in 1992 when Michel Marriott declared in The New York Times that with the launch of VIBE, along with several other factors of the culture and music moving into the mainstream, that it was hip-hop's hostile takeover. Well, what happened Saturday night before the Tyson/Etienne fight definitely illustrates that big things are happening. Check it out as it was written by Jon W. Sparks for

"Jay-Z struts his jiggy stuff for TV perpetuity,"
"Jay-Z will remember Saturday night as the first time a hip-hop artist ever had a full-length concert broadcast live on television. "I wanna thank Memphis for being part of history," the rapper proclaimed."

If my own two eyes had not peeped it, I would not have believed it. I can remember a time when all of the hype surrounding the violence in hip-hop barred it from large venues. No one wanted to take the insurance risk. Rocafella upped the game with the Hard Knock Life Tour, and now this. When Jay-Z proclaimed it was the big takeover, he wasn't at all playing. This is history in the making folks. Keep watching. And if you don't believe it, remember that 50 Cent broke the record for first week sales of a debut artist. And that was with only four days of sales. I know they'll try to kill hip-hop again. They always do. But streets is watching and things are shaking and moving. It is about a heck of a lot more than just the music.

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02.11.03 11:48 PM

the ballots are in

I now take a break from the mainstream press' coverage of hip-hop to bring you an update on the best album of 2002. Well it is the best album according to 695 critics who voted in the annual Village Voice poll. And the winner is Wilco's
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
. Missy's "Work It," wins the #1 single of 2002. Hip-hop took over the
category, but rock/alternative dominated the album winners list. It is so hard to remember, at the beginning of a New Year, what you felt was really hot all year long. I suppose it is whichever albums you bumped the most during the year. On my ballot I went for a little of what I crunked the most and mixed in some later-in-the year releases. It appears that I and Greg Tate have similar taste. And to think, when I was an undergrad, that was whose writing I followed and used as my prime examples of writing about music in literary journalism class. Although, I sort of, kind of, know GT on a personal level, I never knew we bonded on music like this. Trent has a ballot on here too. I really love Sasha Frere-Jones' essay
that tells how Tim beat the Neptunes ass this year.

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